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Right-Size the Service Desk for Small Enterprise

Turn your help desk into a customer-centric service desk.

The service desk is a major function within IT. Small enterprises with constrained resources need to look at designing a service desk that enables consistency in supporting the business and finds the right balance of documentation.

Determining the right level of documentation to provide backup and getting the right level of data for good reporting may seem like a waste of time when the team is small, but this is key to knowing when to invest in more people, upgraded technology, and whether your efforts to improve service are successful.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

It’s easy to lose sight of the client experience when working as a small team supporting a variety of end users. Changing from a help desk to a service desk requires a focus on what it means to be a customer centric service desk and a change to the way the technicians think about providing support.

  • Make the best use of the team. Clearly define roles and responsibilities and monitor those wearing multiple hats to make sure they don’t burn out.
  • Build cross training and documentation into your culture to preserve service levels while giving team members time off to recharge.
  • Don’t discount the benefit of good tools. As volume increases, so does the likelihood of issues and requests getting missed. Look for tools that will help to keep a customer focus.

Impact and Result

  • Improved workload distribution for technicians and enable prioritization based on work type, urgency, and impact.
  • Improved communications methods and messaging will help the technicians to set expectations appropriately and reduce friction between each other and their supported end users.
  • Best practices and use of industry standard tools will reduce administrative overhead while improving workload management.

Right-Size the Service Desk for Small Enterprise Research & Tools

1. Right-Size the Service Desk for Small Enterprise Storyboard – A step-by-step guide to help you identify and prioritize initiatives to become more customer centric.

This blueprint provides a framework to quickly identify a plan for service desk improvements. It also provides references to build out additional skills and functionality as a continual improvement initiative.

2. Maturity Assessment – An assessment to determine baseline maturity.

The maturity assessment will provide a baseline and identify areas of focus based on level of current and target maturity.

3. Standard Operating Procedure – A template to build out a clear, concise SOP right-sized for a small enterprise.

The SOP provides an excellent guide to quickly inform new team members or contractors of your support approach.

4. Categorization Scheme – A template to build out an effective categorization scheme.

The categorization scheme template provides examples of asset-based categories, resolution codes and status.

5. Improvement Plan – A template to present the improvement plan to stakeholders.

This template provides a starting point for building your communications on planned improvements.

Right-Size the Service Desk for Small Enterprise

Turn your help desk into a customer-centric service desk.

Analyst Perspective

Small enterprises have many of the same issues as large ones, but with far fewer resources. Focus on the most important aspects to improve customer service.

The service desk is a major function within IT. Small enterprises with constrained resources need to look at designing a service desk that enables consistency in supporting the business and finds the right balance of documentation.

Evaluate documentation to ensure there is always redundancy built in to cover absences. Determining coverage will be an important factor, especially if vendors will be brought into the organization to assist during shortages. They will not have the same level of knowledge as teammates and may have different requirements for documentation.

It is important to be customer centric, thinking about how services are delivered and communicated with a focus on providing self-serve at the appropriate level for your users and determining what information the business needs for expectation-setting and service level agreements, as well as communications on incidents and changes.

And finally, don’t discount the value of good reporting. There are many reasons to document issues besides just knowing the volume of workload and may become more important as the organization evolves or grows. Stakeholder reporting, regulatory reporting, trend spotting, and staff increases are all good reasons to ensure minimum documentation standards are defined and in use.

Photo of Sandi Conrad, Principal Research Director, Info-Tech Research Group. Sandi Conrad
Principal Research Director
Info-Tech Research Group

Table of Contents

Title Page Title Page
Blueprint benefits 6 Incident management 25
Start / Stop / Continue exercise 10 Prioritization scheme 27
Complete a maturity assessment 11 Define SLAs 29
Select an ITSM tool 13 Communications 30
Define roles & responsibilities 15 Reporting 32
Queue management 17 What can you do to improve? 33
Ticket handling best practices 18 Staffing 34
Customer satisfaction surveys 19 Knowledge base & self-serve 35
Categorization 20 Customer service 36
Separate ticket types 22 Ticket analysis 37
Service requests 23 Problem management 38
Roadmap 39

Insight summary

Help desk to service desk

It’s easy to lose sight of the client experience when working as a small team supporting a variety of end users. Changing from a help desk to a service desk requires a focus on what it means to be a customer-centric service desk and a change to the way the technicians think about providing support.

Make the best use of the team

  • Clearly define primary roles and responsibilities, and identify when and where escalations should occur.
  • Divide the work in a way that makes the most sense based on intake patterns and categories of incidents or service requests.
  • Recognize who is wearing multiple hats, and monitor to make sure they don’t burn out or struggle to keep up.
  • Determine the most appropriate areas to outsource based on work type and skills required.

Build cross-training into your culture

  • Primary role holders need time off and need to know the day-to-day work won’t be waiting for them when they come back.
  • The knowledge base is your first line of defense to make sure incidents don’t have to wait for resolution and to avoid having technicians remote in on their day off.
  • When volumes spike for incidents and service requests, everyone needs to be prepared to pitch in. Train the team to recognize and step up to the call to action.

Don’t discount the benefit of good tools

  • When volume increases, so does the likelihood of missing issues and requests.
  • Designate a single solution to manage the workload, so there is one place to go for work orders, incident reporting, asset data, and more.
  • Set up self-serve for users so they have access to how-to articles and can check the status of tickets themselves.
  • Create a service catalog to make it easy for them to request the most frequent items easily.

Blueprint deliverables

Each step of this blueprint is accompanied by supporting deliverables to help you accomplish your goals:

Standard Operating Procedures

Sample of the Standard Operating Procedures deliverable.

Maturity Assessment

Sample of the Maturity Assessment deliverable.

Categorization scheme

Sample of the Categorization scheme deliverable.

Improvement Initiative

Sample of the Improvement Initiative deliverable.
Create a standard operating procedure to ensure the support team has a consistent understanding of how they need to engage with the business.

Blueprint benefits

IT benefits

  • Improve workload distribution for technicians and enable prioritization based on work type, urgency, and impact.
  • Improved communications methods and messaging will help the technicians set expectations appropriately and reduce friction between each other and their supported end users.
  • Best practices and use of industry-standard tools will reduce administrative overhead while improving workload management.

Business benefits

  • IT taking a customer-centric approach will improve access to support and reduce interruptions to the way they do business.
  • Expectation setting and improved communications will allow the business to better plan their work around new requests and will have a better understanding of service level agreements.

Guided Implementation

A Guided Implementation (GI) is a series of calls with an Info-Tech analyst to help implement our best practices in your organization.

A typical GI is six to ten calls over the course of three to four months.

The current state discussion will determine the path.

What does a typical GI on this topic look like?

Current State & Vision

Best Practices

Service Requests & Incidents


Next Steps & Roadmap

Call #1: Discuss current state & create a vision

Call #2: Document roles & responsibilities

Call #3:Review and define best practices for ticket handling Call #4: Review categorization

Call #5: Discuss service requests & self-serve

Call #6: Assess incident management processes
Call #7: Assess and document reporting and metrics

Call #8: Discuss communications methods

Call #9: Review next steps

Call #10: Build roadmap for updates

For a workshop on this topic, see the blueprint Standardize the Service Desk

Executive Brief Case Study

Southwest CARE Center
Logo for Southwest Care.

Service Desk Project

After relying on a managed service provider (MSP) for a number of years, the business hired Kevin to repatriate IT. As part of that mandate, his first strategic initiative was to build a service desk. SCC engaged Info-Tech Research Group to select and build a structure; assign roles and responsibilities; implement incident management, request fulfilment, and knowledge management processes; and integrate a recently purchased ITSM tool.

Over the course of a four-day onsite engagement, SCC’s IT team worked with two Info-Tech analysts to create and document workflows, establish ticket handling guidelines, and review their technological requirements.


The team developed a service desk standard operating procedure and an implementation roadmap with clear service level agreements.

Southwest CARE Center (SCC) is a leading specialty healthcare provider in New Mexico. They offer a variety of high-quality services with a focus on compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

“Info-Tech helped me to successfully rebrand from an MSP help desk to an IT service desk. Sandi and Michel provided me with a customized service desk framework and SOP that quickly built trust within the organization. By not having to tweak and recalibrate my service desk processes through trial and error, I was able to save a year’s worth of work, resulting in cost savings of $30,000 to $40,000.” (Kevin Vigil, Director of Information Technology, Southwest CARE Center)

The service desk is the cornerstone for customer satisfaction

Bar charts comparing 'Dissatisfied' vs 'Satisfied End Users' in both 'Service Desk Effectiveness' and 'Timeliness'.
N=63, small enterprise organizations from the End-User Satisfaction Diagnostic, at December 2021
Dissatisfied was classified as those organizations with an average score less than 7.
Satisfied was classified as those organizations with an average score greater or equal to 8.
  • End users who were satisfied with service desk effectiveness rated all other IT processes 36% higher than dissatisfied end users.
  • End users who were satisfied with service desk timeliness rated all other IT processes 34% higher than dissatisfied end-users.

Improve the service desk with a Start, Stop, Continue assessment

Use this exercise as an opportunity to discuss what’s working and what isn’t with your current help desk. Use this to define your goals for the improvement project, with a plan to return to the results and rerun the exercise on a regular basis.


  • What service desk processes are counterproductive?
  • What service blockers exist that consistently undermine good results?
  • Are end-user relationships with individual team members negatively impacting satisfaction?
  • Make notes on initial ideas for improvement.


  • What service process improvements could be implemented immediately?
  • What technical qualifications do individual staff members need to improve?
  • What opportunities exist to improve service desk communications with end users?
  • How can escalation and triage be more efficient?


  • What aspects of your current service desk are positive?
  • What processes are efficient and can be emulated elsewhere?
  • Where can you identify high levels of end-user satisfaction?

Complete a maturity assessment to create a baseline and areas of focus

The Service Desk Maturity Assessment tool helps organizations assess their service desk process maturity and focus the project on the activities that matter most.

The tool will help guide improvement efforts and measure your progress.

  • The second tab of the tool walks through a qualitative assessment of your service desk practices. Questions will prompt you to evaluate how you are executing key activities. Select the answer in the drop-down menus that most closely aligns with your current state.
  • The third tab displays your rate of process completeness and maturity. You will receive a score for each phase, an overall score, and advice based on your performance.
  • Document the results of the efficiency assessment in the Service Desk Improvement Initiative.
  • The tool is intended for periodic use. Review your answers each year and devise initiatives to improve the process performance where you need it most.
Sample of the Service Desk Maturity Assessment.

Define your vision for the support structure

Use this vision for communicating with the business and your IT team

Consider service improvements and how those changes can be perceived by the organization. For example, offering multiple platforms, such as adding Macs to end-user devices, could translate to “Providing the right IT solutions for the way our employees want to work.”

To support new platforms, you might need to look at the following steps to get there:
  • Evaluate skills needed – can you upskill generalists quickly, or will specialists be required? Determine training needs for support staff on new platforms.
  • Estimate uptake of the new platform and adjusting budgets – will these mostly be role-based decisions?
  • Determine what applications will work on the new platform and which will have a parity offering, which will require a solution like Parallels or VirtualBox, and which might need substitute applications.
  • What utilities will be needed to secure your solutions such as for encryption, antivirus, and firewalls?
  • What changes in the way you deploy and patch machines?
  • What level of support do you need to provide – just platform, or applications as well? What self-serve training can be made available?
If you need to change the way you deploy equipment, you may want to review the blueprint Simplify Remote Deployment With Zero-Touch Provisioning

Info-Tech Insight

Identify some high-level opportunities and plan out how these changes will impact the way you provide support today. Document steps you’ll need to follow to make it happen. This may include new offerings and product sourcing, training, and research.

Facilitate service desk operations with an ITSM tool

You don’t need to spend a fortune. Many solutions are free or low-cost for a small number of users, and you don’t necessarily have to give up functionality to save money.

Encourage users to submit requests through email or self-serve to keep organized. Ensure that reporting will provide you with the basics without effort, but ensure report creation is easy enough if you need to add more.

Consider tools that do more than just store tickets. ITSM tools for small enterprises can also assist with:
  • Equipment and software license management
  • Self-serve for password reset and improving the experience for end users to submit tickets
  • Software deployment
  • Onboarding and offboarding workflows
  • Integration with monitoring tools
Info-Tech Insight Buying rather than building allows you the greatest flexibility and can provide enterprise-level functionality at small-enterprise pricing. Use Info-Tech’s IT Service Management Selection Guide to create a business case and list of requirements for your ITSM purchase.
Logo for Spiceworks.
Logo for ZenDesk. Logo for SysAid.
Logo for ManageEngine.
Logo for Vector Networks.
Logo for Freshworks.
Logo for Squadcast.
Logo for Jira Software.
Logos contain links

ITSM implementations are the perfect time to fix processes

Consider engaging a partner for the installation and setup as they will have the expertise to troubleshoot and get you to value quickly.

Even with a partner, don’t rely on them to set up categories, prioritizations, and workflows. If you have unique requirements, you will need to bring your design work to the table to avoid getting a “standard install” that will need to be modified later.

When we look at what makes a strong and happy product launch, it boils down to a few key elements:
  • Improving customer service, or at least avoiding a decline
  • Improving access to information for technical team and end users
  • Successfully taking advantage of workflows, templates, and other features designed to improve the technician and user experience
  • Using existing processes with the new tools, without having to completely reengineer how things are done
For a complete installation guide, visit the blueprint Build an ITSM Implementation Plan
To prepare for a quick time to value in setting up the new ITSM tool, prioritize in this order:
  1. Categorization and status codes
  2. Prioritization
  3. Divide tickets into incidents and service requests
  4. Create workflows for onboarding and offboarding (automate where you can)
  5. Track escalations to vendors
  6. Reporting
  7. Self-serve
  8. Equipment inventory (leading to hardware asset management)

Define roles looking to balance between customer service and getting things done

The team will need to provide backfill for each other with high volume, vacations, and leave, but also need to proactively manage interruptions appropriately as they work on projects.
Icon of a bullseye. First contact – customer service, general knowledge
Answers phones, chats, responds to email, troubleshooting, creates knowledge articles for end users.
Icon of a pie chart. Analyst – experienced troubleshooter, general knowledge
Answers phone when FC isn’t available, responds to email, troubleshooting, creates knowledge articles for first contact, escalates to other technicians or vendors.
Icon of a lightbulb. Analyst – experienced troubleshooter, specialist
Answers phones only when necessary, troubleshooting, creates knowledge articles for anyone in IT, consults with peers, escalates to vendors.
Icon of gear on a folder. Engineer – deep expertise, specialist
Answers phones only when necessary, troubleshooting, creates knowledge articles for anyone in IT, consults with peers, escalates to vendors.
Icon of a handshake. Vendor, Managed Service Providers
Escalation point per contract terms, must meet SLAs, communicate regularly with analysts and management as appropriate. Who escalates and who manages them?
Row of colorful people.

Note roles in the Incident Management and Service Desk – Standard Operating Procedure Template

Keep customers happy and technicians calm by properly managing your queue

If ticket volume is too high or too dispersed to effectively have teams self-select tickets, assign a queue manager to review tickets throughout the day to ensure they’re assigned and on the technician’s schedule. This is particularly important for technicians who don’t regularly work out of the ticketing system. Follow up on approaching or missed SLAs.

  • Separate incidents (break fix) and service requests: Prioritize incidents over service requests to focus on getting users doing business as soon as possible. Schedule service requests for slower times or assign to technicians who are not working the front lines.
  • First in/first out…mostly: We typically look to prioritize incidents over service requests and only prioritize incidents if there are multiple people or VIPs affected. Where everything is equal, deal with the oldest first. Pause occasionally to deal with quick wins such as password resets.
  • Update ticket status and notes: Knowing what tickets are in progress and which ones are waiting on information or parts is important for anyone looking to pick up the next ticket. Make sure everyone is aware of the benefits of keeping this information up to date, so technicians know what to work on next without duplicating each other’s work.
  • Implement solutions quickly by using knowledge articles: Continue to build out the knowledge base to be able to resolve end-user issues quickly, check to see if additional information is needed before escalating tickets to other technicians.
  • Encourage end users to create tickets through the portal: Issues called in are automatically moved to the front of the queue, regardless of urgency. Make it easy for users to report issues using the portal and save the phone for urgent issues to allow appropriate prioritization of tickets.
  • Create a process to add additional resources on a regular basis to keep control of the backlog: A few extra hours once a week may be enough if the team is focused without interruptions.
  • Determine what backlog is acceptable to your users: Set that as a maximum time to resolve. Ideally, set up automated escalations for tickets that are approaching target SLAs, and build flexibility into schedules to have an “all hands on deck” option if the volume gets too high.

Info-Tech Insight

Make sure your queue manager has an accurate escalation list and has the authority to assign tickets and engage with the technical team to manage SLAs; otherwise, SLAs will never be consistently managed.

Best practices for ticket handling

Accurate data leads to good decisions. If working toward adding staff members, reducing recurring incidents, gaining access to better tools, or demonstrating value to the business, tickets will enable reporting and dashboards to manage your day-to-day business and provide reports to stakeholders.
  • Provide an easy way for end users to electronically submit tickets and encourage them to do so. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still accept phone calls, but that should be encouraged for time sensitive issues.
  • Create and update tickets, but not at the expense of good customer service. Agents can start the ticket but shouldn’t spend five minutes creating the ticket when they should be troubleshooting the problem.
  • Update the ticket when the issue is resolved or needs to be escalated. If agents are escalating, they should make sure all relevant information is passed along to the next technician.
  • Update user of ETA if issue cannot be resolved quickly.
  • Update categories to reflect the actual issue and resolution.
  • Reference or link to the knowledge base article as the documented steps taken to resolve the incident.
  • Validate incident is resolved with client. Automate this process with ticket closure after a certain time.
  • Close or resolve the ticket on time.
Ticket templates (or quick tickets) for common incidents can lead to fast creation, data input, and categorizations. Templates can reduce the time it takes to create tickets from two minutes to 30 seconds.
Sample ticket template.

Create a right-sized self-service portal

Review tickets and talk to the team to find out the most frequent requests and the most frequent incidents that could be solved by the end user if there were clear instructions. Check with your user community to see what they would like to see in the portal.

A portal is only as attractive as it is useful. Enabling ticket creation and review is the bare minimum and may not entice users to the portal if email is just as easy to use for ticket creation.

Consider opening the portal to groups other than IT. HR, finance, and others may have information they want to share or forms to fill in or download where an employee portal rather than an IT portal could be helpful. Work with other departments to see if they would find value. Make sure your solution is easy to use when adding content. Low-code options are useful for this.

Portals could be built in the ITSM solution or SharePoint/Teams and should include:

  • Easy ways to create and see status on all tickets
  • Manuals, how-to articles, links to training
  • Answers to common questions, could be a wiki or Q&A for users to help each other as well as IT
  • Could have a chatbot to help people find documents or to create a ticket

Info-Tech Insight

Consider using video capture software to create short how-to videos for common questions. Vendors such as TechSmith Snagit , Vimeo Screen Recorder, Screencast-O-Matic Video Recording, and Movavi Screen Recording may be quick and easy to learn.


49% of employees have trouble finding information at work


Employees can cut time spent looking for information by 35% with quality intranet

(Source: Liferay)

Use customer satisfaction surveys to monitor service levels

Transactional surveys are tied to specific interactions and provide a means of communication to help users communicate satisfaction or dissatisfaction with single interactions.
  • Keep it simple: One question to rate the service with opportunity to add a comment is enough to understand the sentiment and potential issues, and it will be more likely that the user will fill it out.
  • Follow up: Feedback will only be provided if customers think it’s being read and actioned. Set an alert to receive notification of any negative feedback and follow up within one or two business days to show you’re listening.

A simple customer feedback form with smiley face scale.

Relationship surveys can be run annually to obtain feedback on the overall customer experience.

Inform yourself of how well you are doing or where you need improvement in the broad services provided.

Provide a high-level perspective on the relationship between the business and IT.

Help with strategic improvement decisions.

Should be sent over a duration of time and to the entire customer base after they’ve had time to experience all the services provided by the service desk. This can be done on an annual basis.

For example: Info-Tech’s End User Satisfaction Diagnostic. Included in your membership.

Keep categorizations simple

Asset categorization provides reports that are straightforward and useful for IT and that are typically used where the business isn’t demanding complex reports.

Too many options can cause confusion; too few options provide little value. Try to avoid using “miscellaneous” – it’s not useful information. Test your tickets against your new scheme to make sure it works for you. Effective classification schemes are concise, easy to use correctly, and easy to maintain.

Build out the categories with these questions:
  • What kind of asset am I working on? (type)
  • What general asset group am I working on? (category)
  • What particular asset am I working on? (sub-category)

Create resolution codes to further modify the data for deeper reporting. This is typically a separate field, as you could use the same code for many categories. Keep it simple, but make sure it’s descriptive enough to understand the type of work happening in IT.

Create and define simple status fields to quickly review tickets and know what needs to be actioned. Don’t stop the clock for any status changes unless you’re waiting on users. The elapsed time is important to measure from a customer satisfaction perspective.

Info-Tech Insight

Think about how you will use the data to determine which components need to be included in reports. If components won’t be used for reporting, routing, or warranty, reporting down to the component level adds little value.

Example table of categorizations.

Need to make quick progress? Use Info-Tech Research Group’s Service Desk Asset-Based Categories template.

About Info-Tech

Info-Tech Research Group is the world’s fastest-growing information technology research and advisory company, proudly serving over 30,000 IT professionals.

We produce unbiased and highly relevant research to help CIOs and IT leaders make strategic, timely, and well-informed decisions. We partner closely with IT teams to provide everything they need, from actionable tools to analyst guidance, ensuring they deliver measurable results for their organizations.

What Is a Blueprint?

A blueprint is designed to be a roadmap, containing a methodology and the tools and templates you need to solve your IT problems.

Each blueprint can be accompanied by a Guided Implementation that provides you access to our world-class analysts to help you get through the project.

Need Extra Help?
Speak With An Analyst

Get the help you need in this 5-phase advisory process. You'll receive 10 touchpoints with our researchers, all included in your membership.

Guided Implementation 1: Current state and vision
  • Call 1: Discuss current state and create a vision.
  • Call 2: Document roles and responsibilities.

Guided Implementation 2: Best practices
  • Call 1: Review and define best practices for ticket handling.

Guided Implementation 3: Service requests and incidents
  • Call 1: Review categorization.
  • Call 2: Discuss service requests and self-serve.
  • Call 3: Assess incident management processes.

Guided Implementation 4: Communication
  • Call 1: Assess and document reporting and metrics.
  • Call 2: Discuss communications methods.

Guided Implementation 5: Next steps & roadmap
  • Call 1: Review next steps.
  • Call 2: Build roadmap for updates.


Sandi Conrad

Ryan Welham

Cassandra Cooper

George Goodall


  • Kevin Vigil, Director of IT, Southwest CARE Center
  • 2 anonymous contributors
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